Thanks, but no thanks.
That was the sentiment expressed by a pair of Great Lakes Division teams from the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) as they were offered a chance to represent the league in the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The Erie Admirals, last year’s Great Lakes Division regular season champions, were expected to join the other five division winners from a year ago and the two spring tournament qualifiers from the Western Conference, but according to NPSL secretary and chairman of the NPSL Open Cup committee Joe Barone, they declined.
Erie owner John Moody said the decision was made due to a variety of reasons. First, the Admirals depend on college players to fill out their roster and many of them wouldn’t be able to join the team until the middle of May. And even if they could, there would be no time to practice or prepare for their opponent.
“It’s important to respect the game … the tournament and our opponents and we felt putting out a ‘B-team’ wouldn’t be fair,” said Moody.
He also cited the financial burden of taking part in the Open Cup, especially in terms of making travel arrangements on relatively short notice. As it stands, when the draw is announced at the end of April, his team could be chosen to play the Colorado Rovers of the USSSA, or the Northern California-based US Club Soccer team in the Play-In Round on May 7. If the draw doesn’t go their way, they could travel to that game. As of last year, the US Soccer Federation reimburses up to $8,000 in travel costs, but depending on where they have to travel, that money can be eaten up rather quickly. On the other side, according to Moody, if they had to host, that would also be a challenge for his club because they would have difficulty securing a local venue. Not to mention, there is a cost to hosting as well. Most teams have to pay to rent a field, pay the referees, and coordinate gameday efforts, just to name a few of the primary expenses.
“We would love to take part in this great tournament … but there’s just too many unknowns for a club like ours,” he added.
With the division’s regular season champions out of the running, AFC Cleveland was next in line as the division’s playoff champions. Detroit City FC had finished ahead of Cleveland in the regular season standings by a point, but when the two teams squared off in the playoffs, Cleveland won 2-1, and the defeated Erie in penalty kicks in the division final.
But just like the Admirals before them, Cleveland also turned down the opportunity to play in the 2013 US Open Cup. The second-year club also cited player availability as their main reason for turning down the invitation.
“AFC Cleveland really wanted to participate in such a historic tournament, but scheduling issues during that time made this an impossible task,” said Cleveland chairman Terry Lawriw.
After the top two teams from the Midwest Conference declined, NPSL management decided that rather than giving an Open Cup berth to the division’s third choice (Detroit City FC), they would award the berth to the club that had the best overall record among the remaining teams league wide (excluding Western Conference), which – coincidentally – ended up being the Brooklyn Italians, a team that Barone has worked for over the last two decades.
The Italians will join the Georgia Revolution (Southeast Division playoff finalist) and Atlantic Division winners New York Red Bulls NPSL to complete the eight team NPSL field for the 2013 tournament.
The five remaining NPSL clubs include: Western Conference qualifying winners FC Hasental and Sacramento Gold, as well as the Madison 56ers (Central Division champions), Chattanooga FC (Southeast Division playoff champion) and FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic (Keystone Division champions).
TheCup.us has also confirmed that the NPSL is no long guaranteeing spots in the First Round of the 2013 US Open Cup to particular clubs or regions.
It was originally reported that the Madison 56ers, Chattanooga FC, FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic, and the two Western Conference winners (FC Hasental and Sacramento Gold) would begin play in Round 1 of the US Open Cup. Of the remaining three teams, which had yet to be determined, two of them would begin in the Play-In Round against either the US Club Soccer or the USSSA champion.
Now, the two Play-In Round teams won’t be known until the US Soccer Federation unveils the 2013 US Open Cup draw at the end of April. It is expected that the teams will be ones that are located closest to the Northern California-based US Club Soccer representative and the Colorado Rovers of the USSSA in an effort to minimize travel costs.
2013 NPSL entries in Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (8 teams)
FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic
New York Red Bulls U23s
* 2 teams (still TBD) will begin play in Play-In Round